Mountain Profile: Mount Russell

North ridge of Mount Russell, Denali National Park and Preserve

North ridge of Mount Russell, Denali National Park and Preserve

In the far western corner of Denali National Park and Preserve towers a peak of unrivaled beauty, Mount Russell. Unknown by the majority of Alaskans, only those who search out such beauty know of its presence. Mount Russell is a classic, pyramid shaped peak, with crumbling black rock and dripping, fractured glaciers that defy gravity.

At 11,670 feet in height, Mount Russell isn’t super tall, but it remoteness and miserable weather make it a challenge to climb. The first ascent was in 1962 via the south ridge and ten years later, in 1972, the north ridge was climbed. The north ridge is now considered the “standard” route. Both Alaska climbing guides feature Mount Russell and its north ridge route and yet, the mountain sees maybe one ascent every couple of years. The loose, steep and terrible looking east face was climbed once and for those looking for a true adventure, the awesome west face is still unclimbed.

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South Ridge and the wicked east face of Mount Russell.

There are two ways to see Mount Russell from land. One is to land on the Yentna Glacier near the base of the North Ridge. The other is to land on the remote Purkey Pile strip and hike a few days to get a fantastic view.

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The sunlit west face of Mount Russell, the north ridge splits the light and dark. The west face still awaits an ascent and even a ski descent…hint hint.

Personally, Mount Russell is one of those mountains that is best appreciated either by climbing it or by the air, where you can truly admire its shapely demeanor.

Alaska Range Project: 2014 Review

2014 was a wild year, full of drama and spectacular wilderness. It started off strong, with two amazing trips and then slowly deteriorated, with family emergencies, wicked weather and cancelled trips. However, I made some strong images for the book and feel confident that this will be an exciting publication and a real tribute to the mighty Alaska Range.

I want to give a big thanks to everyone who helped spread the word in 2014. Images from the project were printed in United States, Japan, Germany, France and Italy.

The biggest exposure came from online venues including: The Adventure Journal, Mother Nature Network, Project Pressure, Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, National Geographic Adventure Blog and Nature Photographers Network.

Photographs from the project were used by numerous climbers from all over the world. With the help from my images, some of them made hard, first ascents. I hope to add a climber support section to the blog this year.

My expedition partners are key to the project’s success, so a big thanks to: Sy, Opie, Phil, Brian, Julie, my Dad and my wife Pam and son Walker. A special thanks to all the pilots who flew me into the wilderness this year including: Jim Cummings, Jim Green and OE.

Thanks to all the 2014 project sponsors and supporters including: The American Alpine Club, The Mountaineering Club of Alaska, Patagonia, Black Diamond, Naneu, Alaska Alpine Adventures and The Alaska Center for the Environment.

And final shout to Kate and the crew at The Mountaineers Books for all their support and for making this project a reality.

Okay, now some photographs!

 

Spring Flight

Mount Foraker and a sea of mountains, Denali National Park and Preserve

Mount Foraker and a sea of mountains, Denali National Park and Preserve

The weather here in Alaska has been off the charts, warm and beautiful. My friend OE and I have been trying to match schedules and we finally had the opportunity to go for an evening flight in the Alaska Range.

The Ramparts, Denali National Park and Preserve

The Ramparts, Denali National Park and Preserve

We left Birchwood in his little Pacer around 7:30 and landed back in Birchwood at 10:30! It was a fantastic flight. The warm, windy days and lack of moisture have created some haze, even in the big mountains. The light never got really dynamic but it was still a beautiful and photographically successful trip. OE’s Pacer is a great little photo plane and I am looking forward to a few more spring flights before my summer expedition schedule goes into full swing.

The beautiful Mount Russell, Denali National Park and Preserve.

The beautiful Mount Russell, Denali National Park and Preserve.

A tighter shot of Mount Russell and it's glorious north ridge, Denali National Park and Preserve

A tighter shot of Mount Russell and it’s glorious north ridge, Denali National Park and Preserve

Little Switzerland, Denali National Park and Preserve

Little Switzerland, Denali National Park and Preserve

Denali towers over everything!

Denali towers over everything!

Southern foothills of the central Alaska Range

Southern foothills of the central Alaska Range

Aerial Photography in the Alaska Range

The yellow sea, Neacola Mountains.

The yellow sea, Neacola Mountains.

The Alaska Dispatch, Alaska’s leading online newspaper has an article on the Alaska Range Project with an emphasis on the aerial photography aspect.

Check it out at:

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20140228/anchorage-photographer-takes-air-capture-alaska-range

Kichatna Mountains and the Cathedral Spires

Cathedral Peaks (triple peak on the left) and Kichatna Spire (on the right)

Cathedral Spires (triple peak is high one on the left) and Kichatna Spire (on the right)

At the southern end of Denali National Park and Preserve is a spectacular collection of granite spires. This fierce group of mountains is rumored to have the densest population of granite towers in North America.

There are a variety of names giving to this cluster of monster peaks: Cathedral Spires, Cathedral Mountains, Kichatna Mountains, Kichanta Spires. On the USGS map they are called the Kichatna Mountains. They were first discovered in 1899 by explorer Joseph Heron who named the three dominate peaks he could see from Rainey Pass as Augustin, Gurney and Lewis. On the Southern end of the Kichatna Mountains is a cluster named the Cathedral Spires, which includes FlatTop Spire and the most sought after mountain in the area, Middle Triple Peak.

Mount Augustin

Mount Augustin, Kichatna Mountains

Dead center of Kichatna Mountains is the mighty Kichatna Spire and to the north are Augustin and the other peaks seen and named by Joseph Heron. Climbers didn’t begin climbing in the area until the 1960’s. One of my favorite climbing stories from that area is Conrad Anker’s account of the second ascent of Middle Triple Peak.

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In April I did a fly over of the Kichatna Mountains with my friend Dan Bailey. It took about an hour to get there from Anchorage in his little Cessna. Neither of us had been there before and we were impressed. It was beautiful day, windless and clear. It was a little hazy but the peaks themselves were nicely lit.

Because of their density, the spires are difficult to photograph from the air. Many are hidden from view. I couldn’t get a clear shot of the Triple Peak. It was a little nerve-racking flying amongst them, especially with both Dan and I having our windows open, cameras sticking out. I would have to frequently remind Dan that there were giant mountains in front and to all sides of us.

The Citidel, Kichatna Mountains

The Citadel, Kichatna Mountains

We realized later that it would have been better if we stayed farther away from the peaks. We should have circled all the way around them. I generally prefer to be on the ground or on a adjacent peak when photographing mountains, but it is nice to get a bird eyes view ever once in awhile and there is a perspective that you can only get from the sir.

The Kichatna Spire

The Kichatna Spire

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The beautiful summit of Kichatna Spire

All the images were taken with my D800e and the Nikon 70-200mm F4 lens.